The real cost of fake fashion - undercover in the UK's counterfeit capital Cheetham Hill

Video report by Granada Reports' journalist Anna Youssef

It's just after 2:30pm on a Sunday afternoon and the streets of Cheetham Hill and Strangeways are lined with riot vans, police cars and armed officers with dogs.

An unmarked shop on the notorious Bury New Road, the UK capital of counterfeit goods, had pulled the shutters down on a group of its customers.

Something had spooked the shopkeeper and in a desperate attempt to escape the cramped store - one of the bargain hunters had dialled 999.

It's not the first time Greater Manchester Police has crowbarred open metal shutters to free innocent shoppers from a counterfeit shop. In Cheetham Hill, it's a regular occurrence.

Dozens of stores have been found to be selling fake designer clothes, jewellery, accessories and tech as part of the force's crackdown on counterfeiters, Operation Vulcan.

The area attracts millions of designer-loving shoppers every year who are searching for a convincing copy of a Gucci bag or Canada Goose coat - and for one day, I was one of them.

Cheetham Hill is the counterfeit capital of the UK. Credit: GMP

Even with a huge police presence, walking through Cheetham Hill is extremely intimidating.

We were told by our security guard to avoid eye contact with any of the so-called "spotters" who are, quite literally, everywhere.

Their job is vital to counterfeiters as they keep watch on every street corner and raise the alarm if police, or any other suspicious characters, are in the area.

On a normal day, they would even tempt you inside the shops, similar to how a restauranteur would do abroad. But not today.

As we make our way through the windy backstreets behind Bury New Road, we walk by a man with two Belgian Malinois dogs on choke chains. Not your average family pet.

Even though I'm trying to act natural (well, as natural as I can with a hidden camera), I can feel the eyes of countless men on me.

Anna Youssef talks to Gamal Fahnbulleh and Ann O'Connor about counterfeit goods in Cheetham Hill

Walking through a puff of vape smoke, I peek in the window of a deserted shop which I assumed had just been raided by police.

The unit next door, however, was filled to the rafters with boxes stacked on top of each other. I imagined them toppling over like Jenga pieces if anyone tried to open the door.

As we turn the corner onto the high street, we notice some of the stores are closed for the day and have their shutters down.

Police had raided 13 shops located inside one building on Bury New Road. The property was deemed unsafe by the fire service and closed for good.

We nip into one of the only shops open after spotting a couple of fake Supreme caps on the back shelf. Within seconds, five men are standing behind us.

As a young woman, I felt immediately uncomfortable and I quickly scanned the room for escape routes.

I asked about the caps, which we bought before leaving. We spent no more than five minutes in the shop but it felt like an hour.

Trading Standards have proven that the hats were low-quality fakes. A few wears and I'm convinced they would fall apart.

Plastered across TikTok and Instagram are celebrities like Kim Kardashian sporting expensive designer goods. Credit: PA images

Plastered across TikTok and Instagram are celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Jack Grealish sporting expensive designer bags and glittering in diamond-encrusted accessories.

Although it may seem innocent to buy fake Fendi, Dior, Gucci and North Face, it is not a victimless crime.

Beneath the surface is the real cost of fake fashion; a sinister network of criminal activity, with strong links to modern slavery, terrorism and sexual exploitation.

Greater Manchester Police ask anyone with information on counterfeiters to report it online or by using the LiveChat facility, or by calling 101.

Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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